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Clin Diagn Lab Immunol. 1997 May;4(3):275-8.

Heterogeneity of cell-associated CP5 expression on Staphylococcus aureus strains demonstrated by flow cytometry.

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Laboratoire de Pathologie Infectieuse et Immunologie, Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique, Nouzilly, France.


It was reported previously that two capsular polysaccharides, types 5 and 8 (CP5 and CP8), account for 70 to 80% of Staphylococcus aureus strains isolated from human and animal sources. The capsular material has been shown to play a part in virulence and in resistance to phagocytosis. With a view to investigating the role that CP plays in pathogenicity or protection, relative measurement of cell-associated CP is desirable. Flow cytometry, which permits the analysis of individual bacteria, was used to that end. Thirty isolates expressing CP5, of human (n = 7) and animal (cow, n = 11; goat, n = 3; swine, n = 3; hen, n = 3; and rabbit, n = 3) origin, were cultivated on either brain heart infusion agar (BHI) or modified medium 110 (mod 110) agar. Staphylococci were incubated with a mouse anti-CP5 monoclonal antibody (an immunoglobulin M, which does not react with staphylococcal protein A) and then stained with a fluorescein-labeled anti-murine antibody. The bacteria were washed, sonicated, and analyzed by flow cytometry. Except for three isolates, the expression of cell-bound CP5 was higher when bacteria were cultivated on mod 110 than when they were cultivated on BHI. We found a wide intraisolate phenotypic heterogeneity in surface-exposed CP5 in many strains, which appeared as mixtures of stained and unstained bacteria. Four main patterns could be distinguished on the basis of the distribution of the fluorescence of individual bacteria within the strain population as a function of growth medium. Great variations in both percentages of stained bacteria and fluorescence intensity were recorded among strains regardless of their origin. Flow cytometry analysis provided information on both the relative amounts and the distribution patterns of the surface expression of CP. This information is potentially useful for the evaluation of the part played by the capsule in the interaction of bacteria with host cells or for the study of the activities of antibodies to this target antigen, such as opsonization or prevention of adherence.

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